Monday, September 03, 2007

Toadstool Pie

King Bolete? (Boletus edulis)

What's this? A freshly baked pie abandoned on the forested flanks of Mount Hood?

King Bolete? (Boletus edulis)

Nope. It's a mammoth mushroom (or toadstool, if you prefer). The stem was roughly the circumference of a coffee mug. The cap was almost exactly the size and shape of a deep-dish apple pie. Holy shit!

I think it's a king bolete (Boletus edulis) AKA porcini or cep. One of my mushroom books, All That the Rain Promises and More..., opines that "no mushroom is more substantial or satisfying to find."

I won't dispute that. In order to get to where these things were growing (we found more than a dozen), I had to cross a raging glacial stream on a teetery fallen log. I know this is no big deal for most people, but I'm a total squawking chicken when it comes to crossing water without a nice solidly engineered bridge. Fortunately, there were no witnesses (apart from B) to see me scooching along the log on my butt.

We then climbed 1,400 feet up to a meadow with a dead-on view of Hood. The wildflowers are no longer blooming, so that was a disappointment, but the monster shrooms made up for it.

So did I load up my backpack with my substantial and satisfying finds and are they at this very moment being sauteed in butter in a jumbo skillet? No, I did not and they are not. A) As a mushroom identifier I remain a rank amateur--I've eaten exactly one mushroom (a super-easy- to-ID chanterelle) I foraged from the forest. What if instead of being king boletes, these things were the dreaded Satan bolete, causer of "severe gastrointestinal distress"? B) While I may not have been certain about the species, one thing was certain. These fungi were elderly--well past their prime and close to expiring into a mass of grub-ridden slime. C) Even had they been in the first flush of youth, I had no mushroom-picking permit with me. Of course, it's not like there was anyone stationed at 5,200 feet enforcing Mount Hood National Forest's mushroom regulations, but a rule is a rule!



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